The Atlanta Journal Constitution, the paper of record for southeastern sports, has a headline proclaiming that Vanderbilt stunned the Auburn Tigers and the SEC yesterday. What Vandy did yesterday should not be shocking to anyone that's been paying attention this season.
First of all, Auburn isn't very good. This is an enormous win for the Commodore program from a credibility and name recognition standpoint. It just so happens that this version of Auburn is not nearly as stout as the preseason prognosticators gave it credit for being. The Tigers lack an identity on the offensive side of the ball. The spread offense, at this point, is not working on the plains. Five offensive touchdowns in four conference games can not be looked at as a success on any level. In fact, they can't even manage to decide on a quarterback nearly halfway into the season. Tommy Tuberville, who famously chided UGA coach Mark Richt in 2001, saying that you have to run the ball to win in this league, could only muster up 4 yards rushing from his team in the second half.
An early missed extra point by Auburn kicker Wes Bynum proved to be the difference in the game as Vandy took a 14-13 lead late in the 3rd quarter and never relinquished it. The win was sealed with a late Myron Lewis interception that allowed Vanderbilt QB Mackenzi Adams to kneel down and run out the clock for the Commodores.
Auburn certainly didn't help itself with 11 penalties to the tune of 81 yards, but the story of this game is Vandy quarterback Mackenzi Adams coming in cold off the bench to lead his team to one of its biggest wins ever. Adams put in a solid performance to the tune of 153 yards passing, two touchdowns, and perhaps most importantly for a second team guy coming in off the bench, no interceptions.
This, believe it or not, is a solid Vanderbilt squad. They are opportunistic on defense and special teams, seeming to take advantage of every little bounce of the ball that comes their way. They play as a team, lacking any individual stars of note to this point, and it is important to point out, they get better in the second half.
It has been 25 long years since Vanderbilt has turned in a winning season. They are now two wins away from doing just that in 2008. Anyone who watched this game last night should expect to see the Commodores bowling later this year. With ESPN in town, not only broadcasting the game but also bringing their traveling circus Gameday setup with them, a sold-out crowd, and a chance to win a game as a ranked team for the first time since 1956, Vandy fell behind quickly 13-0. The crowd was let down and the league, as well as the Auburn Tigers, had to figure that the old Vandy was back and this was going to be a cakewalk. Instead, this version of the Commodores showed that they had come to play on this night. Auburn scored 2 touchdowns in 60 seconds and were held scoreless for the remainder of the night. Vanderbilt hung around all night and refused to ever give up. This Vanderbilt team fights and scraps until the final buzzer. Anyone who takes them lightly at this point does so at their own peril.